Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Day at the Vineyard - Muscadine Grapes in Zebulon

ZEBULON - No, I wasn't sipping wine at a vineyard on Friday morning, but rather picking grapes for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. (More about them in a moment.) The kind farmer who opened his vineyard to us was there on site, helping us navigate the various fields, answering any questions we had, and offering his first-hand knowledge on all things Muscadine. 

We were there to "glean" the excess harvest after the commercial picks were done for the season. Picking in late October was quite an anomaly since harvests are known to wrap up in September. There was more than enough left on the vine though, enough to fill the back of a pickup truck. And with the help of a couple dozen volunteers, ages 5 to 55, we did just that. 

We picked the Nesbit variety when we were there. I had never tried ANY Muscadine grape before, I had only seen them in the grocery store. These were the color and size of black olives. There was definite discussion on how one goes about eating these fruits. I got a first-hand lesson in the field. The "guts' are similar in texture to an oyster or hard jello, semi-sweet and full of tiny seeds, which you need to filter out - like a watermelon. Most spit out the outer skin, which can be tough. The grapes are used in wine, juice and jams.

The Inter-faith Food Shuttle is a non-denominational, hunger-relief organization headquartered in Raleigh, NC. I checked them out online a couple years ago after seeing their box trucks all over town. Although I personally focus my energies on the gleaning aspect of the organization, they do so much more—from recovering millions of pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to waste, to educating and training individuals in the kitchen and on the farm. The following video explains all that the Food Shuttle does -- why and how -- much better than I ever could (Click here.) I couldn't be more honored to work with these folks. Not only are these good people, they are clearly making a big difference in the community. 

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